What will it cost to major in dental hygiene at the nearest community college? What’s the average first-year and median earnings? What’s the graduation rate? Texas has created a useful cost-benefit guide for prospective college students, writes Fawn Johnson in the National Journal magazine.
The searchable MyFutureTx.com can be customized to reflect the searcher’s location, household income, and SAT scores. It will help a future college student browse possible careers, majors and college options, warn about college costs and debt and predict future earnings.
If you’re a high school student in Texas and dream of a career in the arts, you might want to know that fine-arts and studio-arts graduates at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls make, on average, about $10,000 more per year than alumni who majored in the same subjects at Sul Ross State University in Alpine—and that the disparity lasts for 10 years after graduation. Yet the total cost of a bachelor’s degree is the same at both schools, around $42,000. The average time to complete the degree is also about the same, a little more than five years.
Several states have developed websites with data on graduates’ earnings, job opportunities across majors, and comparisons of colleges’ costs, writes Johnson. Texas’ site is the most sophisticated.
Anthropology majors who graduated in 2002 make an average of only $46,000 after 10 years on the job, the site warns. Economics majors from 2002, by contrast, earn about $100,000.
Investigating a career as a dental hygienist, I used the site to find eight community colleges that offer an associate degree in dental support services for an annual net price less than $5,000. Statewide, the average time to a dental support degree is 5.4 years, but 84 percent of graduates are employed. The average first-year pay is $44,747. By the 10th year, that’s up to $53,213 — better than graduates with a bachelor’s in anthropology.
But not all dental hygienists do that well. El Paso Community College graduates start at $24,435 and rise to $39,768 in 10 years.
Texas Reality Check encourages young people to estimate their spending, then shows pay, after taxes, for hundreds of careers. A child-care workers can expect to take home $1,233 a month, the site estimates. That’s one third the take-home pay of a dental hygienist.
Starting at a community college will cut the cost of a bachelor’s degree, but students have to be savvy to make it work, writes Lisa Ward in the Wall Street Journal.
Transferring credits can be be “complicated and confusing,” she writes. Students and parents should research whether their state has coordinated community college and state university credits.
For example, California, Louisiana and Texas guarantee admission to a four-year state university to any student who earns an associate degree at an in-state community college. Florida has the same guarantee for an associate of arts, but transfers will need high grades and prerequisites to get into popular majors at prestigious schools.
Some states, including Texas and Florida, use the same numbering system for community college and state university courses. Psych 101 is the same at every school, making it easier for students to know which credits will transfer.
Hybrid degree programs also help transfers earn low-cost bachelor’s degrees.
Houston Community College and University of Texas at Tyler designed a program where students can earn an associate’s degree in engineering from HCC and then enroll at UT Tyler, as long as their grade-point average is 2.5 or higher. The program sets the student up for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, electrical or civil engineering.
“It costs $19,000, for all four years, if you live in-state,” says David Le, who is enrolled in the program. “No one ever believes me when I tell them how cheap it is,” says Mr. Le, who lives at home because the program is taught entirely at HCC’s campus.
Earning college credit in high school also cuts the cost of a degree. Most schools offer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses that enable students to earn college credit. Increasingly, students can earn credits through “dual enrollment” or “early college” classes, which often are taught by community college instructors.
“In many cases, dual enrollment and early college are the absolutely cheapest way to earn college credit because it’s free,” says Dilip Das, assistant vice provost at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Community colleges are a boon to the economy and to their students, according to Where Value Meets Values, a report by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
In 2012 alone, the net total impact of community colleges on the U.S. economy was $809 billion in added income, equal to 5.4 percent of GDP. Over time, the U.S. economy will see even greater economic benefits, including $285.7 billion dollars in increased tax revenue as students earn higher wages and $19.2 billion in taxpayer savings as students require fewer safety net services, experience better health, and lower rates of crime.
Students also see a significant economic benefit. For every one dollar a student spends on his or her community college education, he or she sees an ROI of $3.80.
Associate-degree holders average $41,900 per year in mid-career, about $10,700 more than someone with just a high-school diploma, the report estimated.
Community colleges deliver a negative return on investment to taxpayers – though a positive return to students –because of the high dropout rate, an October report found. The earlier report focused more narrowly on tuition costs and post-graduation salaries, observes the Chronicle of Higher Education.
An author of that report, Mark S. Schneider, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research and president of College Measures, thinks the AACC report exaggerates the societal benefits. The AACC researchers “didn’t acknowledge that students who attend college are already less likely to pose risks or added costs to society,” he told the Chronicle. “It assumes that if you didn’t graduate from a community college, you’re going to be a fat, smoking criminal, which is just not true.”
Overweight and obese girls earn lower grades and are less likely to go to college, concludes a new study. That’s the primary reason educated adults are slimmer and healthier, the researchers concluded. It’s not that “higher education confers lifelong social, economic, and psychological benefits that help adults” make healtheir choices.
Michigan has joined Oregon in proposing a “Pay It Forward” student lending system, writes Susan M. Dynarski. Students would pay no tuition up front and pay back a fixed percentage of their income after college. The idea is flawed but fixable, writes Dynarski.
In both the Michigan and Oregon versions of Pay It Forward, a borrower pays a fixed percentage of income for a fixed number of years. A high earner would pay much more than she borrowed; a low earner would pay much less.
In a Hamilton Project proposal, Dynarski proposes a change in income-based repayment — or Pay It Forward — that would encourage aspiring high earners to participate.
Denominate debt in dollars, and let borrowers pay their debt. If a student borrows $25,000 and (due to pluck and luck) earns enough that she has paid back the principal plus interest after just ten years, she will stop paying into the program. If a borrower instead runs into hard times and still owes money after 25 years, the balance will be forgiven.
In this way, both Pay It Forward and my income-contingent repayment would subsidize low earners without driving away high earners, concludes Dynarski.
A three-year bachelor’s of applied science degree will cost $13,000 to $15,000 for Texas students, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The competency-based degree was developed by South Texas College and Texas A&M University at Commerce under the aegis of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Students will mix online and face-to-face learning.
The degree emphasizes organizational leadership, the board said, adding that the program “will culminate with a digital-capstone experience where students will apply their knowledge and skills to real-world business problems.”
The coordinating board said that the new offering was “a faculty-driven initiative, developed by community-college and university faculty,” but “we also listened to what national and regional employers are saying they really want: graduates with critical-thinking skills who are quantitatively literate, can evaluate knowledge sources, understand diversity, and benefit from a strong liberal-arts and sciences background.”
Shirley A. Reed, South Texas College’s president, said in a statement that the new degree “is a transition from colleges measuring student competencies based on time in a seat to now allowing students to demonstrate competencies they have acquired in previous employment, life experiences, or personal talents.”
Two years ago, Gov. Rick Perry called on the state’s colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees that would cost students no more than $10,000 each, notes the Chronicle. UT-Permian Basin offers a $10,000 bachelor of science four-year degree, while UT-Arlington and UT-Brownsville offer similar programs, developed through partnerships with community colleges and school districts.
The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program is supported by the College for All Texans Foundation and by a two-year, $1-million grant from Educause and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Online instruction will upend the economics of higher education, according to The Economist.
Current and former for-profit college students like their school’s quality, but not the high costs, reports Public Agenda. Alumni aren’t certain their degree was worth it.
Students and alumni “agree that their schools have caring instructors, keep class sizes small, and give effective guidance (though alumni are slightly less enthusiastic),” according to the survey. Current students say they’re making good progress in their course of study.
However, students and alumni say their schools are expensive, and nearly half of current students say they worry “a lot” about taking on too much debt.
A third of alumni say their degree “really wasn’t worth it.” Another 30 percent say their degree’s value “remains to be seen” and 37 percent say their degree was “well worth it.”
About half of the employers surveyed see few differences between for-profit and not-for-profit colleges. The rest see public institutions as superior. However, many employers aren’t clear about which colleges are for-profit or non-profit.
Many students don’t realize they’re attending a “for-profit” school.
Like community colleges, for-profit colleges draw many low-income students, notes Public Agenda. These “economically vulnerable” students are not “comparative shoppers.” Just 39 percent of for-profit undergraduates and 32 percent of for-profit alumni had considered more than one school before they enrolled at their current institutions. Even fewer considered a non-profit alternative. Community college students show similar patterns.
Florida’s low-cost bachelor’s degrees are paying off for students, writes Sophie Quinton in The Atlantic.
Graduates from the Florida College System’s workforce-oriented bachelor’s degree programs earn about $8,000 more the year after graduation than university graduates, according to research mandated by the state legislature. Tuition for four-year degrees from FCS institutions typically cost $13,000—less than half the cost of four years at a state university.
Alberto Partida, 43, will spend less than $10,000 to earn a four-year degree in supply-chain management from Broward College, a former community college in South Florida. A high school graduate and former restaurant owner, Partida hopes to enter a growing field. The college estimates there will be 3,555 new supply-chain management jobs in the county by 2019, driven by the expansion of local ports.
The FCS (formerly the Florida Community College System) offers four-year degrees in high-demand fields, such as nursing and computer engineering technology, that lead directly to jobs. FCS colleges don’t offer liberal arts degrees, and can’t offer programs that compete with nearby universities.
But in programs roughly equivalent to university majors, FCS graduates do just fine. Business administration and elementary education majors at state universities earn about the same their first year out of school as FCS graduates, the report found. Registered nurses who graduate from FCS institutions actually earn about $10,000 more their first year out than their university-educated peers.
Florida Prepaid, a state program that lets parents pay for college in advance, charges $53,729 for a four-year university plan, almost three times as much as a four-year FCS degree plan. ”Each year that goes by we’re starting to see more families purchasing the four-year Florida College plan and the 2+2 plan,” says Kevin Thompson, executive director of Florida Prepaid. The 2+2 plan combines an associate’s degree with two years at a state university.
Community college tuition could be free to high school graduates in Tennessee, Mississippi and Oregon.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed making two years of a community or technical college education free in his State of the State address. “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless.”
“We just needed to change the culture of expectations in our state,” the governor told the New York Times. “College is not for everybody, but it has to be for a lot more people than it’s been in the past if we’re going to have a competitive work force.”
Community college costs only $3,800 a year in Tennessee, just above the national average. With help from Pell Grants, most students pay little or nothing in tuition and fees. However eliminating tuition would enable lower-income students to use their Pell aid to pay for books, supplies, transportation and living expenses.
The “Tennessee Promise” will have a psychological impact, Haslam predicted. Many people don’t realize community and technical colleges are affordable. “If we can go to people and say, ‘This is totally free,’ that gets their attention.”
The plan would cover Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, which grant academic degrees, and 27 technical colleges, which provide job training. The technical system is nationally known for high success rates.
The net cost to the state isn’t really zero, but Haslam estimated diverting lottery revenue would cover the $34 million a year.
Mr. Haslam also called for Tennessee’s public colleges to make a new effort to recruit the state’s nearly one million adults who have some college credits but ended their educations without earning degrees or professional certificates. And he proposed expanding a program that gives particular help to struggling high school students so they can go to college without needing remedial classes that do not earn college credit; studies have shown that students who take remedial courses are far less likely to graduate.
High school graduates in Mississippi could attend community college for free for two years under a bill being considered in the Legislature, reports the Clarion-Ledger. Scholarships would be available to students younger than 21 who enroll full-time and maintain a 2.5 grade point average.
The idea started at Meridian Community College, which began offering what it calls a “tuition guarantee” in fall 1996, using privately donated money.
Oregon legislators also may study whether it’s feasible to let high school graduates attend community college for free. “If we get this right, I think we can unleash a tremendous amount of motivation within these young people, giving them the motivation to stay in school, to get a certificate, to achieve that additional learning that can make a difference in terms of their economic success,” Gov. John Kitzhaber told the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee.